Anonymous: The Authorship Debate

JULY / AUG 2016: BY LILA DONOVAN

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William Shakespeare is widely known all over the world as the talented writer of famous works such as Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, etc. He explores the human condition through his work and many of his characters are universal. At the same time he made his writing sound beautiful and poetic.

How did he become a master of the written word? How did a man from such a humble background become one of the greatest living writers in history? There’s a small minority of scholars and skeptics nicknamed “Anti-Stratfordians” that believe William Shakespeare could not have been the man behind the genius. They believe that someone other than Shakespeare actually wrote all those plays, and for whatever reason the true author(s) wanted to stay anonymous.

The Anti-Stratfordians do make an interesting case. They explain that Shakespeare came from a very modest background and little is known about him. That the true author(s) had be well-educated, cultured, know about politics, court intrigue, and be familiar with the royal court. How could such a humble man that wasn’t so well-educated write so beautifully and know so much? Scholars even compare Shakespeare’s handwriting to show that he was illiterate.

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The movie Anonymous sides with the Anti-Stratfordians and attempts to explore whom the true author(s) may be. There have been many proposed candidates such as Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere, Sir Walter Raleigh, etc. The list is long. For this film, the filmmakers chose to focus on Edward de Vere as the true author.

Edward de Vere was born to John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford and to Margery Golding, Countess of Oxford. John died in 1562 and his mother died in 1568, respectively. He became a royal ward of Queen Elizabeth I and she placed him under the household of William Cecil, who was the queen’s chief advisor and secretary of state. In the film Edward is shown as a literary genius and is unhappy in the household as their values differ. Cecil is a puritan. de Vere loves the arts. Cecil doesn’t allow the arts in his home. Due to their differences, a domino effect of problems start off that will put them at odds throughout their lives. Edward de Vere sires an illegitimate son with Queen Elizabeth and once that son reaches adulthood he becomes part of a rebellion against the queen.

The film shows why Edward felt compelled to hide his authorship behind Shakespeare (a conspiracy, with each play intent on enforcing public opinions, transforming policies, and attacking the queen’s advisors). Fans of Shakespeare and Elizabeth will not like this film, as it puts them in an unfavorable light. The man known as Shakespeare is shown as a philandering fool. Elizabeth isn’t the “virgin queen” and has illegitimate children, unknowingly commits incest, and executes her own children. Much of the movie mostly focuses on the life and politics of Edward de Vere. William Shakespeare doesn’t appear except for a few scenes.

Those who believe de Vere was the true author of Shakespeare’s work are called Oxfordians. The Anti-Stratfordians are a small minority of people, as are the Oxfordians. Much of the world still believes Shakespeare wrote his work, as does many scholars. Scholars and fans of Shakespeare go to great lengths to show why Shakespeare is the true author. I encourage you to hear both sides and make-up your own mind.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lila Donovan is a Christian and a university student. She loves to read, draw, write, and has a blog.

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7 Replies to “Anonymous: The Authorship Debate”

  1. Interesting post!

    I’ve thought about this some in the past, and have always come to the conclusion that Shakespeare really did write his own plays, rather than being the “front” for somebody anonymous. Because I don’t, personally, think that what Shakespeare wrote required so much education as talent. I mean, I think that as long as he was literate and reasonably well-read, he would’ve had all the material he needed to create those plays. What set him apart from the other playwrights of his era (in my opinion) was not a superior degree of knowledge or experience, but simply far, far greater capacity for imagination and creativity–the ability to take old, worn-out stories and breathe new life into them with larger-than-life characters and brilliant dialogue and beautiful poetry. And that kind of writing ability can’t really be “taught.” Either you have it . . . or you don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jessica, I still personally believe he wrote his plays. There are scholars that can defend better than I can why Shakespeare wrote his plays, sonnets, etc. Also, history is full of autodidacts (self-taught people), one example that just comes to mind is scientist Michael Faraday.

      Like

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